Florida boy dies of same rare parasite Arkansas girl survived
(KATV) A Florida boy with the same brain eating parasite as Kali Hardig of Benton has died. Friends, family and supporters were hoping 12-year old Zachary Reyna would be the fourth ever survivor, behind Kali.
Both kids are 12 years old. Doctors gave Zachary the same experimental anti-amoeba drug used to treat Kali, but Saturday, he reportedly went brain dead.
Like Kali Hardig, Zachary Reyna became ill and exhausted after swimming in fresh, shallow water this summer. Doctors say the amoeba is commonly found in warm water such as lakes and ponds. It enters the body forcefully through the nose like when you jump in the water. It than travels to the brain where it destroys brain tissue.
Earlier this month, Zachary's brother, Brandon Villarreal said the baseball player was going to beat the odds. "I told him it is the ninth inning, ninth inning two outs, runner on third, he's up to bat. It's his turn to hit it out. Bring the runs home so we can go home. It's time to win. He's going to be okay."
But Saturday, family members released this statement: "At 1:54 today there was a crack of a bat heard. Zac took it deep. My boy hit his homerun. One that I'll never forget. I'm so proud of him. He left it all on the field and I can't ask for more. He did so well that he'll be the starting 2nd baseman for The Lords team. I sit back and ask myself, what would make me prouder; my son playing pro ball, being a successful business man or being known for changing and saving thousands of lives to the Lord. It's a no brainer. I love The Lord for giving me such a beautiful son who He chose to change myself, my family and the world for better. Thank you Jesus. It hurts, but you have given my family love and peace. We couldn't be so strong today without you. I hope that Zac continue to touch people and his time here is remembered forever. We thank everyone for being so caring and I know it's going to be tough on us at first, but we have an awesome support team back home and we are grateful for that. hanging and saving thousands of lives for The Lord. It's a no brainer. I love The Lord for giving me such a beautiful son who He chose to change myself, my family and the world for better. Thank you Jesus. It hurts, but you have given my family love and peace. We couldn't be so strong today without you. I hope that Zac continues to touch people and his time here is remembered forever. We thank everyone for being so caring and I know it's going to be tough on us at first, but we have an awesome support team back home and we are grateful for that. The battle is over for Zac but he won the war. The battle is over for Zach but he won the war."
Back here in Arkansas, it's no longer a question of 'if' Kali will survive, it is a time table of when will she be well enough to walk out of Arkansas Children's Hospital.
Kali is talking, sitting up and walking with help. She is only the third to survive the deadly parasite in 50-years. Contracting it is rare. State health officials say you can reduce the risks of becoming infected by using a nose plug and staying out of warm, shallow, fresh water.
Antibiotics in Kali and Zachary's cases defeated the infection, test showed negative for the amoeba. Zachary Reyna's family plan to donate his organs.
Background on Kali: When Kali was taken to Arkansas Children's hospital with severe symptoms of meningitis, her odds of living were very slim; but Friday, August 9, Kali was moved from the intensive care unit into the floor unit, where she'll continue her road to recovery.
"I mean it was ecstatic news and she did so well to breathe on her own, so it was just unbelievable," said Kali's mother Traci Hardig about her daughter being taken off a ventilator.
Traci Hardig said about the miraculous day it became apparent Kali was going to survive, making childhood accomplishments even while lying in a hospital bed.
"Kali has made me so proud these past three weeks you can't believe it," her mother added.
Since the beginning of this emotional roller coaster for the family, doctors knew they were up against deadly bacteria.
"The amoeba will actually eat away at the tissue; it literally eats the tissues," said Dr. Mark Heulitt. "It is a severe form of meningitis where your brain will be eaten by the amoeba."
Dr. Heulitt is one of Kali's doctors at ACH. He said an experimental drug from Germany is playing a crucial role in Kali's survival, along with the timing of her seeing a doctor, even before she made it to ACH.
Dr. Heulitt adds, "Any delay in this is very serious. I agree absolutely that one of the things is if she waited another day she would not be alive today,"
A confirmed case of the brain eating amoeba that has threatened Kali's life has now been reported in Southwest Florida. The age and condition of the patient have not been released.
Dr. Heulitt continues, "Since we have a survivor everyone wants to know what we did. There is another child who's recently in another children's hospital who they think has naegleria, so the Center for Disease Control directed the hospital to contact us."
Through online outreach, it's safe to say the people of Arkansas consider Kali their adopted child.
"It's really touched us, I mean we can't believe the support that we've gained and the people that just want to pray for Kali," Hardig said.
Kali still has a road of rehab ahead of her. Doctors expect a hospital stay for about two more months to retrain parts of her brain.
It's unknown right now if she'll experience any side effects.
The Prayers for Kali Le Ann Facebook page is getting support from all over the world and her classmates in Saline County have been raising money to pay for her medical bills.
Donations to medical bills can be made at any Arvest Bank branch. The account is "Kali Le Ann Hardig.'
Officials with the ADH say it is the second case of the rare illness from the same water park in the past three years. The other victim, a 7 year old boy died in 2010.